Leading from behind
Donald Trump ran as a champion of the Second Amendment — “nobody loves it more than us.” Now the president is treading carefully, letting others get out front in the renewed discussion about gun laws after the Las Vegas massacre.
The National Rifle Association indicated it would favor stricter regulation of “bump stock” devices, which allow a semi-automatic weapon to be fired as rapidly as a machine gun.
More than a dozen Republican senators are open to a ban, and Democrats want one. Will Trump, who met with victims of the mass shooting, join them?
“Right now our focus ... has been on healing and uniting the country,” said press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Trump also is waiting for the investigation to move further along, she said.
What’s more, the White House wanted “input from the victims’ families, from law enforcement, from policymakers,” Sanders said.
But Trump later indicated he’ll weigh in soon. “We’ll be looking into that in the next short period of time,” he said.
See Tom Brune and Emily Ngo’s story for Newsday.
The take-away: Misread his lips
The Trump-stirred confusion over Puerto Rico’s debt — the comment that “we’re going to have to wipe that out” — is but the latest that his handlers had to clean up to plug the gap between his words and actual policy.
“I wouldn’t take it word for word,” Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney backtracked Wednesday.
On Thursday, Sanders was even clearer that Trump had no magic wand, saying the procedures to deal with the debt were put in place during the Obama administration “and it will go through that process as we move forward.”
In the interim, financial markets have been jolted by Trump, and not for the first time, writes Newsday’s Dan Janison.
So did he mean this?
Trump had a double-barreled rage tweet Thursday, Ngo reports for Newsday. It was triggered by the previous day’s reports of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s frustrations and the Senate Intelligence Committee’s continuing search for evidence of collusion with Russian election meddling.
“Why Isn’t the Senate Intel Committee looking into the Fake News Networks in OUR country to see why so much of our news is just made up-FAKE!” said the 6:59 a.m. missive.
Sounds like Trump is calling on Congress to investigate news media. Is he?
“I don’t know that that’s the case,” Sanders said. “But I do think that we should call on all media to a higher standard.”
Just use your imagination
While posing with military leaders and their wives at a White House photo op Thursday evening, Trump’s remarks were cryptic and, perhaps by design, a little ominous.
“You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm,” Trump said. “We have the world’s great military people in this room,” he added.
Pressed on what he meant, Trump said, “You’ll find out.”
Washing hands of Iran deal?
Trump will decertify the Iran nuclear pact next week, declaring it is not in the national interest, but let Congress decide whether to actually walk away from it.
Congress will have a 60-day review period to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran that were lifted by the agreement. The Trump administration will also outline what steps would make the deal more palatable.
Cruz-ing for a bruising
The White House’s battle with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz isn’t over yet. After Trump’s Puerto Rico visit, she wore a T-shirt that read “Nasty” — a word Trump has used to describe her.
Sanders hit back: “She chose to wait until the president left and then criticize him on TV, which I think is the wrong thing for her to do for her constituents.”
Meanwhile, FEMA’s website has altered its statistics page on Puerto Rico to no longer show data on the millions still without running water and electric power, The Washington Post reported. It shows more positive measures in such categories as functioning hospitals, open airports and post offices, and the number of federal employees deployed.
What else is happening
- A teenager wounded in the Las Vegas shooting said after Trump visited her in the hospital that he was “super nice” and “comforting” — “he wasn’t who we see on social media.”
- The Treasury Department’s inspector general decided Secretary Steven Mnuchin hasn’t violated any laws with his use of government-funded planes, but he failed to provide adequate justification. The inquiry followed a trip with his wife to Kentucky to see Fort Knox and a solar eclipse.
- Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has flown on government planes instead of cheaper commercial flights seven times in the past eight months, The Washington Post reported.
- Plans being finalized by the White House to demand hard-line new rules for legal immigration in exchange for a fix on the DACA program could tank a deal with Democrats and alienate some Republicans too, Politico reports.
- Reversing the Obama administration’s position, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a memo that federal civil rights law does not protect transgender people from discrimination at work.
- White House officials believe that chief of staff John Kelly’s personal cellphone was compromised, potentially as long ago as December, according to three U.S. government officials. The period includes his time as Homeland Security secretary and his early days in the White House.
- Trump’s first wife, Ivana, told CBS News he offered her the ambassadorship to her native Czech Republic, but she turned it down because “I like my freedom. ... I have a perfect life.”